King turned pro in 1991 and has a highest ranking of 11th
Mark King believes he played his best snooker in recent years at the Paul Hunter Classic last weekend and has set aside thoughts of giving up snooker.
The world number 33 from Essex won five matches at the Kreativ Dental Clinic European Tour event in Germany to reach the semi-finals, conceding just one frame. He was on the brink of the final at 3-0 up against Shaun Murphy but eventually lost 4-3. Still, it was King’s first semi-final appearance since the 2011 Shanghai Masters.
“The last two or three years have not been good,” admitted the 1997 Welsh Open and 2004 Irish Masters finalist. “There have been times when I have wondered if it is worth playing. I’ve been losing to players who I should be beating, and half thinking about giving it up.
“So I’m very pleased to have shown some consistency in Germany and to have hit the ball a lot better. I was devastated in the end to lose to Shaun because it was a chance to win a tournament. I didn’t miss a ball in going 3-0 up but then I took my eye off a black in the fourth frame, and after that things started going against me. I got a kick on a red in the next frame, and he had a couple of flukes – though I can’t complain because I had enough chances.
“Even though I’ve been playing the game for a long time, I hadn’t been in a semi for four years so I felt a few nerves. When you are winning, snooker is easy. But when you’re struggling for results and money, there is more pressure. My aim now is to get to quarters and semis more often so it becomes natural again. I don’t want to be a player who just hangs around and never gets to the business end of tournaments.
“I have worked hard in practice this season. In recent years I have just turned up at the club and knocked balls around, but now there is more purpose to it, with a reason to every routine. I had to ask myself why I am so inconsistent, why I can beat a top player one day and then play like an idiot the next. I realised I needed to change something.
“It will take a while, but it’s encouraging to see better results already. I’m excited about the next tournament now, although I’m gutted that I haven’t got anything for a few weeks because I didn’t qualify for Shanghai.”
King, age 41, has considered retirement before – in fact at the 2003 World Championship he announced his intention to quit snooker after a first round defeat against Drew Henry. He changed his mind over the summer and had one of his best ever seasons in 2003/04.
“There are bumps in the road over the years,” he said. “You lose bad matches – it happens. But I know you’ve got to be determined and just look ahead to the next one.”
King often takes friends for breakfast at the finest cafés in Romford
King has spent enough days working on building sites and plastering jobs to be able to put his snooker career into perspective. “I still do the odd day here and there,” he said. “It’s good to have a day away from the club now and then, to sweat and graft and make you appreciate that we are lucky to hit balls for a living.”
Talent for sport runs in the family – son Freddie is a gifted footballer currently training with Cambridge United juniors, while eldest daughter Maizie was recently named Player of the Year by her school’s handball team. And the man known on the circuit as ‘K-Dog’ remains optimistic about his own competitive future.
“What Stuart Bingham has done gives me hope because he’s only two years younger than me,” said King. “Matt Selt is the most improved player on the circuit because he has put the work in. I don’t want to be going into tournaments now, knowing I could have practised harder. I’m just looking forward to the next one.”